Howarth was born at Cannock, Staffordshire. He was educated in the 1950s at Manchester University and the Royal Manchester College of Music (the predecessor of the Royal Northern College of Music), where his fellow students included the composers Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Peter Maxwell Davies and the pianist John Ogdon. Together they formed New Music Manchester, a group dedicated to the performance of new music.
He has worked with all leading British orchestras, as well as many orchestras worldwide. He played the opening bars of Tippett's King Priam at its Coventry premiere in 1962, (conducting the whole work years later for English National Opera). He has conducted many operas, and premiered György Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm in 1978 and four operas by Harrison Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus at English National Opera (1986), Yan Tan Tethera for Opera Factory (1986), Gawain at the Royal Opera House in London (1991) and The Second Mrs Kong at Glyndebourne (1994). He was Principal Guest Conductor of Opera North from 1985 to 1988, and Music Advisor to the company from 2002 to 2004.
As a composer and former trumpet player, he writes mainly for brass instruments. Swedish trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger has premiered several of his works on cornet, including his Cornet Concerto, Canto, and Capriccio. He has written arrangements such as The Carnival of Venice Variations for brass ensemble  and Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition arranged for brass band. Composer Roy Newsome remarks that "Howarth's masterly rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (1979) dwarfed all previous transcriptions."
He was brought up in a brass band family and has maintained his interest in the art form. Howarth has made a huge contribution to the modern repertoire of brass band music. Many of his works are recorded, most notably by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the Eikanger-Bjørsvik band. He also was one of the trumpeters who performed with The Beatles on the song "Magical Mystery Tour".
During the 1970s there was a spate of transcriptions of Tudor music, mainly by Elgar Howarth. However, Howarth's masterly rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (1979) dwarfed all previous transcriptions.
| Music Advisor, Opera North
Aroura is a composition for strings by Greek/French composer Iannis Xenakis. It was composed in 1971.Bliss (novel)
Bliss is the first novel by Australian writer Peter Carey. Published in 1981, the book won that year's Miles Franklin Award.Carnival of Venice (song)
The "Carnival of Venice", is based on a Neapolitan folk tune called "Oh Mama, Mama Cara" and popularized by violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini, who wrote twenty variations on the original tune. He titled it "Il Carnivale Di Venezia," Op. 40. In 1829, he wrote to a friend, "The variations I've composed on the graceful Neapolitan ditty, 'Oh Mamma, Mama Cara,' outshine everything. I can't describe it." Since then, the tune has been used for a number of popular songs such as "If You Should Go to Venice" and "My Hat, It Has Three Corners" (or in German, Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken). A series of theme and variations has been written for solo cornet, as "show off" pieces that contain virtuoso displays of double and triple tonguing, and fast tempos.
Since Paganini, many variations on the theme have been written, most notably those by Jean-Baptiste Arban, Del Staigers, Herbert L. Clarke for the cornet, trumpet, and euphonium, Francisco Tárrega and Johann Kaspar Mertz for classical guitar, Ignace Gibsone and Louis Moreau Gottschalk for piano, and Giovanni Bottesini for double bass. Chopin's "Souvenir de Paganini", dedicated to the composer and violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, is another variation on this theme. The popular novelty song, "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?", written and recorded in 1952, is based on the tune.
The piece has also been arranged for tuba, notably played by John Fletcher and available on the CD The Best of Fletch. Also Roger Bobo on Tuba Libera (cd). Another tubist whose performance of the piece is noteworthy is Øystein Baadsvik, a Norwegian tubist.
Dick Manning and Buddy Kaye wrote a popular song based on "Carnival of Venice," named "A Carnival in Venice," recorded by The Mills Brothers in 1954.Between 2015 and 2018, German crossover violinist David Garrett gained wide recognition with the tune, playing variations of Paganini's variations in movies and with various orchestras and bands.Eikanger-Bjørsvik
The Eikanger-Bjørsvik band (also known as the Eikanger band) is a brass and percussion ensemble from the municipality of Lindås, Norway. They are probably the best known brass band in Norway and have won the National brass band championships nineteen times (1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019). In 1988 they became the first non-British band to win the European championships for brass band, an achievement they repeated in 1989 and 2017. The Eikanger-Bjørsvik band have worked with conductors like David King, Elgar Howarth, Howard Snell, Ingar Bergby, Bjarte Engeset and Nicholas Childs.
The name is constructed from the names of two small villages along the fjord of Osterfjorden, Eikanger and Bjørsvik, which both had their own community bands. Eikanger's, being the oldest, was founded in 1949, Bjørsvik's in 1952. In 1971, the bands merged and became a British-style brass band.Gawain (opera)
Gawain is an opera with music by Harrison Birtwistle to a libretto by David Harsent. The story is based on the Middle English romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The opera was a commission from the Royal Opera House, London, where it was first performed on 30 May 1991. Rhian Samuel has published a detailed analysis of the opera. Birtwistle revised it in 1994, and the premiere of the revised version was given at the Royal Opera House on 20 April 1994.Grimethorpe Colliery Band
The Grimethorpe Colliery Band is a brass band, based in Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire, England. It was formed in 1917, as a leisure activity for the workers at the colliery, by members of the disbanded Cudworth Colliery Band. It achieved worldwide fame after appearing in the film Brassed Off, and along with the Black Dyke Mills Band, the band became the first to perform at the Proms.Håkan Hardenberger
Ulf Håkan Hardenberger (born 27 October 1961 in Malmö) is a Swedish trumpeter. Taking up the trumpet at the age of eight under the guidance of hometown teacher Bo Nilsson, Hardenberger pursued further studies at the Paris Conservatoire, with Pierre Thibaud, and in Los Angeles with Thomas Stevens. He has quickly established a career as a virtuoso who possesses not only an impressive command of the classical repertoire, but has also commissioned many new works from contemporary composers, including Harrison Birtwistle, Toru Takemitsu, Hans Werner Henze, Rolf Martinsson, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Heinz Karl Gruber, Benjamin Staern, Brett Dean, Tobias Broström and Arvo Pärt. Hardenberger has been called "the cleanest, subtlest trumpeter on earth" by The Times.Magical Mystery Tour (song)
"Magical Mystery Tour" is a song by the Beatles, the opening track and theme song for the album, double EP and TV film of the same name. Unlike the theme songs for their other film projects, it was not released as a single.New Music Manchester
New Music Manchester refers to a group of English composers and performers who studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the RNCM) and Manchester University in the 1950s. The Manchester School is principally identified with the composers Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr, and together with the pianist John Ogdon and the conductor and trumpeter Elgar Howarth they formed the group New Music Manchester. Its members played a significant role in reshaping the landscape of British music in the later 20th century.Peter Maxwell Davies
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (8 September 1934 – 14 March 2016) was an English composer and conductor. In 2004 he was made Master of the Queen's Music.As a student at both the University of Manchester and at the Royal Manchester College of Music, he formed a group dedicated to contemporary music, the New Music Manchester, with fellow students Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Elgar Howarth and John Ogdon. His compositions include eight works for the stage, from the monodrama Eight Songs for a Mad King, which shocked the audience in 1969, to Kommilitonen!, first performed in 2011. He wrote ten symphonies, the first in 1973–76, the tenth ("Alla ricerca di Borromini") in 2013.
As a conductor, he was Artistic Director of the Dartington International Summer School from 1979 to 1984. From 1992 to 2002 he was associate conductor/composer with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he also held with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.Philip Jones (musician)
Philip Jones (12 March 1928 – 17 January 2000) was a British trumpeter and leader of an internationally famous brass chamber music ensemble.
Philip Jones was born in Bath, England. In 1944 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. He became principal trumpet for most major London orchestras: The Royal Philharmonic (1956–60), the Philharmonia (1960–64), the Philharmonic (1964–65), the New Philharmonia (1965–67) and the BBC Symphony (1967–71). His playing continues a line of English trumpeters that stretches back to Ernest Hall.
In 1951 he had formed the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, one of the first brass ensembles working regularly as a stable group. They grew from four members to ten and larger for special projects. The most usual formations were the quintet (two trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba) and the ten-piece (four trumpeters one sometimes doubling piccolo trumpet and one sometimes doubling flugel horn, horn, four trombones and tuba). The success of these formations owes much to Philip Jones's work.
After 1971 he devoted himself to it full-time and the group commanded long commitment from many fine players including: the trumpeters Elgar Howarth, John Wilbraham, Michael Laird and James Watson; horn players Ifor James and Frank Lloyd; trombonists John Iveson and Raymond Premru; and the renowned tubist John Fletcher. They made 50 recordings and toured over 30 countries finding particular popularity in Japan. Repertoire spanned from transcriptions of early music by the likes of Monteverdi, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Johann Pezel, to new works for the medium commissioned by Jones. These included pieces by Witold Lutosławski, Hans Werner Henze and Einojuhani Rautavaara; altogether they performed 87 world premieres. The ensemble's leader was noted for his meticulous preparations at every concert, lining up the music stands himself, his personal commitment being one of the reasons for the ensemble's success.
In 1986 he accidentally drove his car over his own trumpet case. He took this as the hand of fate and decided to retire from concert performances. He held posts at the Royal Northern College of Music (the institution's first head of brass) and Trinity College of Music, where he was Principal until his retirement in 1994. He was chairman of the Musicians Benevolent Fund in 1995. He was awarded the OBE in 1977 and the CBE in 1986. When not at work he divided his time between Switzerland and London.Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, founded in 1951 by trumpeter Philip Jones, was one of the first modern classical brass ensembles to be formed. The group played either as a quintet or as a ten-piece, for larger halls. It toured and recorded extensively, and numerous arrangements were commissioned, many of which were bequeathed on Jones' death to the library of the Royal Northern College of Music.
Following Philip Jones' retirement in 1986, a number of the members of his group continued, changing their name to London Brass.Silbury Air
Silbury Air is a musical composition for chamber ensemble by the English composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle.
Written in 1977 and revised in 2003, it takes as its inspiration the prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, with its connotations of the spiritual and mysterious: the precise function of Silbury Hill remains unknown. However the mood of the piece is not contemplative. It is described by the composer as "a compound artificial landscape or 'imaginary landscape', to use Paul Klee's title...presenting musical ideas through the juxtaposition and repetition of 'static blocks' or... objects." Across the two-part structure Birtwistle first focuses on the rhythmic and processional, despite the absence of what those rituals might be. Birtwistle has stated that the piece follows a strict logical pattern, but chooses not to disclose what that is, much as Silbury Hill has never revealed its purpose to archaeologists. In the second half the "Air" of the title emerges on the flute, before moving to the woodwind, at a tempo independent of the pulse of the rest of the ensemble. Four chords on the harp bring the work to a conclusion.
A performance lasts around sixteen minutes.
Silbury Air was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation to mark the centenary of Serge Koussevitzky's birth. The premiere was given by the London Sinfonietta under Elgar Howarth at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 9 March 1977.Synaphaï
Synaphaï (Greek: connexities) is a composition for piano and orchestra by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis. It was finished in 1969 and premiered in 1971.The Jewel Box
The Jewel Box is a pasticcio opera constructed by Paul Griffiths out of various pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Its mostly English libretto by Paul Griffiths includes new translations of most of the Italian-language texts of the musical numbers. It was premiered by Opera North at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, on 19 February 1991. The conductor was Elgar Howarth, the director was Francisco Negrin and the designer was Anthony Baker.The Last Supper (opera)
The Last Supper is an opera with music by Sir Harrison Birtwistle to an English and Latin libretto by Robin Blaser. Birtwistle composed the music over the period written in 1998-1999. The world premiere was given by the Berlin State Opera on 18 April 2000, with the production directed by Martin Duncan and conducted by Daniel Barenboim. It was subsequently performed by the Glyndebourne Touring Opera in October/November 2000 and the following summer at the 2001 Glyndebourne Festival. Many of the original cast returned for two concert performances at the Piccolo Teatro Studio Expo, Milan and the Teatro Valdocco, Turin on 4-5 September 2008 with the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Elgar Howarth as part of the Settembre Musica festival.The Second Mrs Kong
The Second Mrs Kong is an opera in two acts, with music by Sir Harrison Birtwistle to a libretto by Russell Hoban. Glyndebourne Touring Opera first staged the opera on 24 October 1994. The cast included Philip Langridge, Helen Field and Michael Chance. Tom Cairns designed and directed the production, in collaboration with choreographer Aletta Collins. Elgar Howarth was the conductor. This production was recorded for the National Video Archive of Performance by the V&A Theatre Museum. This recording is available to view by appointment at the V&A Collections Centre and Reading Room in Olympia, London.
The opera is a mix of ancient and modern mythologies as well as history. Jonathan Cross has commented that the work, "like so many of Birtwistle's operas....is concerned with mythology" and is more about "the idea of Kong" rather than King Kong as such. He has also analysed parallels between this work and Birtwistle's earlier opera The Mask of Orpheus. Robert Adlington has critically discussed the relationship of the opera's music to the words. David Beard has examined in detail the relationship of various forms of images to the music and Birtwistle's and Hoban's collaboration.The second production of the opera took place in 1996 in Vienna. The London premiere of the work was in November 2004, as part of the 70th birthday concerts for Birtwistle.